Arnold Lazarus loved his home, faith, family and roller coasters

Arnold Lazarus loved his home, faith, family and roller coasters

Even after moving to Cincinnati 18 months ago, Arnold H. Lazarus, an otherwise lifetime Pittsburgher, continued to subscribe to The Jewish Chronicle to keep his hand on the pulse of the community he helped to build.

“He loved seeing the Chronicle,” said his son, Bruce Lazarus. “He wanted to keep up. He may have been out of Pittsburgh, but his heart was in the Jewish community here. He spent his life building these organizations.”

Lazarus died Saturday, Nov. 17, in Cincinnati. He was 92.

Lazarus made his mark as a pioneer in the wholesale pharmaceutical industry, establishing what was once the region’s largest pharmaceutical distributor, Allegheny Wholesale Drug Company, along with his business partner Jules Levine, in 1955. He served as president of that company until his retirement in 1984, and helped launch the development of in-house prescription pharmacies at supermarkets.

“My father was the first wholesaler to deal with Giant Eagle when Giant Eagle went into the pharmacy business,” Bruce Lazarus said. “A lot of the independent pharmacies didn’t want that to happen.”

Born on Jan. 6, 1921, Lazarus grew up in Squirrel Hill and graduated from Taylor Allderdice High School. After graduation, he got a job at the Federal-Rice Drug Company as a salesman.

His employment there was interrupted by the outbreak of World War II, when he enlisted in the Army and became a medic. Three days after D-Day, he landed in Normandy and later fought in the Battle of the Bulge, earning the Bronze Star for heroism for rescuing a wounded soldier.

He returned to Normandy in 1994 on the 50th anniversary of D-Day, Bruce Lazarus said.

“In my view, Dad was a hero,” said his son, Hillard Lazarus. “He was in that generation that Tom Brokaw wrote about in his book ‘The Greatest Generation.’ He survived the Depression, went to war, won the war, and then came back and built this great economic machine. We could use more people like him.”

After the war, Lazarus returned to his job at Federal-Rice. There he met a young secretary, Belle Goldberg, whom he would soon marry. The couple celebrated their 68th wedding anniversary last month.

Lazarus became a fixture in Jewish Pittsburgh. An active member of Beth Shalom in Squirrel Hill, he served as its president, as well as the president of the congregation’s men’s club. He was a contributor to Jewish organizations throughout the city including Yeshiva Schools, the ZOA, Jewish War Veterans and Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.

“He was an incredibly staunch advocate for the Jewish community,” said Hillard Lazarus. “He was a natural salesman, and one of his callings was to get people energized and motivated.”

He was able to use that skill to raise countless funds for Israel.

He and Belle were honored several times by State of Israel Bonds for their commitment to that organization, according to Harold Marcus, executive director of Israel Bonds, Pennsylvania region.

“He was a member of our board for over 50 years,” Marcus said. “From the day I started [as an Israel Bonds sales representative in Pittsburgh], he was my mentor and became a dear, dear friend.”

Lazarus could not refuse helping any Jewish organization that reached out to him, Bruce Lazarus said.

“Anything that had the word ‘Jewish’ in it would get a check from him,” Bruce Lazarus said. “He was extremely dedicated to the Jewish community.”

Lazarus was also known for his generosity at the personal level, said Hillard Lazarus, recalling the time his father bought a bar mitzvah suit for a local young man whose family could not afford to purchase one.

Lazarus continued his commitment to Judaism in Cincinnati while a resident at Cedar Village, a Jewish senior living facility.

“He took over the minyan for the Orthodox service, and started leading the blessings and grace after meals there,” Bruce Lazarus said.

Lazarus was active in Galen, an organization of Jewish pharmacists that is now defunct, the Masons and the Oddfellows. He loved children, and was a Cub Scout Master.

Always an adventurous spirit, Lazarus continued to ride roller coasters through his mid-80s, Bruce Lazarus recalled. He loved to visit Kennywood, as well as King’s Island in Cincinnati, not minding that he was often the oldest person on the rides.

Lazarus is survived by his wife, Belle; his sons, Hillard (Joan) of Cleveland, Bruce (Phil Weintraub) of Cincinnati; a daughter, Geraldine Mailender of Boca Raton, Fla.; a brother, Darrell (“Buddy”) of Shadyside; four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Services were held Tuesday, Nov. 19, at Congregation Beth Shalom. Memorial contributions may be made to Cedar Village in Cincinnati, or the charity of one’s choice.

(Toby Tabachnick can be reached at

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